The word pussy was first attested with the definition "cat" in the late seventeenth century, as a diminutive of puss. It was actually already in use as a term of endearment for "girl", on the notion that sweet girls exhibited characteristics similar to kittens (it's this sense that later developed into the insult meaning "effeminate man"), and could also mean "rabbit" in its early stages. The slang term for "woman's genitals" also emerged from puss around the turn of the eighteenth century because of the idea that they were both "soft, warm, and furry". Finally, puss comes from a common Germanic word for "cat", which was probably onomatopoeic of the hissing sound used to call them over (similar words also exist in Arabic and Farsi). The expression pussyfoot emerged in 1903 on the notion of cats treading lightly.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a rising junior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.